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Defence Chief Dares Militants, Visits N'Delta

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Defence Chief Dares Militants, Visits N'Delta

Post  Admin on Wed Sep 17, 2008 8:49 am

Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Paul Dike, will today commence his first official visit to the Niger Delta region.

The visit, which is being undertaken at a time crisis in the troubled region is escalating, a dependable source at the Defence Headquarters told Daily Independent, was to enable him see and assess the situation in the region first hand.

Dike will be briefed by Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF)on the recent clashes between soldiers and various of militant groups led by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which is gradually reaching a crescendo. MEND attacked Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC)facilities at Alakiri on Monday, forcing the company to reduce its personnel in the region for security reasons.

The attack left an unconfirmed number of soldiers and militants dead. While the militants said a number of soldiers and other recalcitrant staff of the oil company were killed, the JTF denied the allegation, saying the militants were the worse for the attack.

Also, while the military confirmed that an SPDC oil flow station was torched during the attack, the company denied the burning of the flow station, but confirmed that a community guard was killed while four others sustained injuries and were treated at the company's medical facility in Port Harcourt.

Worried by the conflicting reports and the possible withdrawal of Shell from the troubled region, the CDS has concluded arrangements to review operations of the JTF with a view to making it more proactive and more efficient in curbing activities of the militants.

It was disclosed that arrangements have been concluded to investigate the source of sophisticated assault weapons in the possession of the militants.

A security source disclosed that weapons being used by the militants originated from Eastern European country, and were allegedly bought with proceeds from stolen crude oil in the Niger Delta.

It was also gathered that over 90 per cent of weapons recovered by the JTF were manufactured in the unnamed country, fuelling speculations that the militants have an undefined relationship with some power brokers in the said country through which they source arms and ammunition.

The CDS might eventually give more roles to the Navy and the Air Force in the task of curtailing the militants due to his resolve to block porous waterways and other entry points through which the militants have been ferrying weapons into the country.

A source disclosed that the Navy had been mandated to intensify patrol of the nation's seas, which has been identified as the vintage area of operations for the militants and their foreign collaborators, who buy stolen crude oil from them in foreign currency and weapons as payment on the sea.

It would be recalled that the retired service chiefs failed to check militancy in the Niger Delta.

With the same mandate of effectively checking the militants handed to Dike, a source said that a master plan towards solving the problem within a short period is on the cards.

Meanwhile, the SPDC on Tuesday held series of meetings on how to contain attacks on its faculties by MEND.

Shell's spokesman, Precious Okolobo, confirmed an attack on Bakana Pipeline in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State.

MEND said in a statement on Tuesday that, "At 2210 hours on Monday, September 15, 2008, a major crude oil pipeline at Bakana Front in Degema LGA of Rivers State belonging to SPDC was destroyed with explosives by MEND detonation engineers backed by heavily armed fighters."

However, the management of Shell is not taking the development lightly. Although they have evacuated their staff from the Bakana pipeline, the company is working on how to safeguard its property from further attacks.

In a related development, the Senate on Tuesday began the process of enacting a law that would jail anyone indicted on terrorism and militancy charges for 20 years, in the first instance.

Senators unanimously pushed a bill for an Act to make provisions for enhancement of Nigerian national security and for matters connected therewith through second reading on Tuesday.

Standing committees of the Senate, including the Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, as well as the Committee on Foreign Affairs, have been directed to begin legislative work on the bill.

Sponsored by Senator Anthony Manzo (PDP, Taraba), and supported by Senators Nuhu Aliyu and Victor Ndoma-Egba, the bill provides a set of sanctions including a maximum jail term of 20 years for persons found guilty of terrorism and other related offences.

Manzo explained that as contained in the bill, a terrorist act means "an act or commission in or outside Nigeria, which constitutes an offence within the scope of a counter-terrorism convention, or an act or threat of action in or outside Nigeria, which involves serious bodily harm to a person, involves serious damage to property, endangers a person's life, creates serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, involves the use of firearms or explosives, is designed or intended to disrupt the provision of essential emergency services such as police, civil defence or medical service."

Among others, the bill also stipulates that, "Any person, who directly or indirectly, provides or makes available financial or other related services intending that they be used, in whole or in part, for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a terrorist act, or knowing that in whole or in part, they will be used by or will benefit a terrorist group, commits an offence and shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 years."

To be jailed alongside militants and terrorists are those who either deliberately or inadvertently provide and allow their properties to be used for such acts.

"Any person who provides, collects or makes available by any means, directly or indirectly any property, intending, knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that the property will be used in full or in part to carry out a terrorist act, commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

"Any person who uses property, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a terrorist act, or possesses property intending that it be used, or knowing that it will be used, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a terrorist act, commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

"Any person, who, being the owner, occupier, lessee or person in charge of any building, premises, room, or place and knowingly permits a meeting of persons to be held in that building or allows for recording in the building or aircraft for the purpose of committing an act of terrorism, commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years."

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